WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday that they may see his tax returns one day, according to a Democratic aide who was briefed on the meeting.

The aide said the remark appeared to be flippant, and it’s not clear the attendees believed the president. Democrats have pushed for Trump to release his tax returns; he departed from roughly four decades of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to disclose any of them during the 2016 campaign. Trump has said he’s under an IRS audit and that he won’t release his returns while it’s pending.

During a meeting with Democratic and Republican members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, Trump also said he didn’t want to gain from the tax bill, the aide said. That comment came the same day Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a published interview that it will be difficult to avoid giving the highest earners a tax cut.

“The top 20 percent of the people pay 95 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent of the people pay 81 percent of the taxes,” Mnuchin told Politico. “So when you’re cutting taxes across the board, it’s very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy with tax cuts to the middle class. The math, given how much you are collecting, is just hard to do.”

Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn also attended Wednesday’s meeting, where they urged the attendees not to pay attention to independent analyses of the tax framework, which have suggested that it would benefit high earners and hurt some middle-income taxpayers, the aide said. Democrats were skeptical, the aide said.

—Bloomberg News


Tillerson uses speech on ‘partner’ India to take jab at China

WASHINGTON — Ahead of his first trip to India, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday used a speech about the world’s largest democracy to take a jab at the Pacific region’s other powerhouse, China.

Tillerson heaped praise on India’s vibrant growth and declared the United States its partner.

He also commended India for respecting international norms of trade and commerce as it challenges China’s economic power.

Although the United States wants continued dialogue with Beijing, Tillerson said, “we won’t shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”

“In this period of uncertainty and angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage,” he said. “The United States is that partner.”

Tillerson travels in the coming days to India and other countries in the region, pushing what the State Department describes as the administration’s new policy for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region, including Afghanistan.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Pentagon postpones Guantanamo prosecutor’s retirement until 2019

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Army has postponed the looming retirement of chief war crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who will stay in the job “for at least another two years,” a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

Martins has had the job for six years. He was due to retire on Nov. 1, but instead, the Army “deferred” his retirement to Nov. 1, 2019, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said in a statement.

Martins, 57, serves as both the chief overseer of war court cases and a case prosecutor in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole death penalty trials. Neither trial has a start date.

One-star generals are time-limited in service and Martins had already received one extension past his initial retirement date in 2014.

Sakrisson said Wednesday: “While he, like any other military officer, is subject to reassignment at any time to meet the needs of the Department of Defense, the Army’s action serves to retain him as chief prosecutor for at least another two years.”

The Pentagon disclosed the Army decision four days after the Miami Herald reported that Martins’ future was still unsettled, even as his office was poised to grapple with the surprise resignations of three civilian defense attorneys on the USS Cole case over an ethical issue. Prosecutors notified defense attorneys Friday evening by email that they were preparing to argue that only the trial judge can release veteran death penalty defender Rick Kammen and two other civilians from the case.

Martins is a West Point and Harvard Law School graduate. He was appointed to the job in July 2011 when former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was deputy secretary of defense. He has lectured and traveled widely in his campaign to argue the war court created by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and then reformed by the Obama administration, is a legitimate forum for terror and war crimes cases against non-citizens.

He was initially due to retire in 2014; the first extension kept him in place until after President Barack Obama left office.

—Miami Herald


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.